PMA—in alignment with its goal to assist members to achieve and succeed—has been working on a series of reports. Our intent is to gain visibility for our industry, to increase sales, and to educate our members and others on the importance of independent publishing.
In conjunction with the Book Industry Study Group, we published the 1999 report The Rest of Us. This is a study of US independent book publishers who, for the most part, had never been counted when industry statistics were issued. Before this study, the book-publishing marketplace was being touted as a $23 billion industry. The Rest of Us concluded that a modest count of the independent publishing community added up to $14.6 billion in sales annually, most of which had not been included in the $23 billion industry figure. Since this report, independent publishers have received media recognition across the US, and today there are three independently published titles ranked on the NY Times bestseller list, including PMA-member Carl Sams Photography, for their title Stranger in the Woods!
Continuing with educating and explaining industry practices to the PMA membership and independent publishers, we planned in 2000 what we hoped would become a series of reports. We launched this with a White Paper on Sales Representation & Distribution Options for Independent Publishers, compiled and authored by Thomas Woll of Cross River Publishing Consultants. The report provided smaller and mid-sized publishers with a basis of comparison with which to view and analyze sales options. It focused on the question of using a distributor and whether that option is the best one for these publishers. It provided a comparative analysis of each option and drew conclusions about which ones were the most appropriate during each publisher’s stage of development.
This year, the board decided that there were indeed many issues facing today’s independent publisher that need attention. Therefore, on the morning of March 15, 2001, PMA will be launching what is to be a series of reports and research at a press conference at the Small Press Center in New York City. The ides of March date seemed appropriate for us to announce PMA’s next White Paper Report titled Book Industry Returns: An Analysis of the Problem; A Focus on Smaller Publishers; Opportunities for Improvement. Tom Woll penned this report for PMA and will be the author of reports on other topics that directly affect the way in which independent publishers continue to do business in this ever-changing book-publishing environment.
The series of PMA White Paper Reports will cover some of the following topics:
• Salary Survey/Contract Services. This data will be broken down by size of company and geographic area.
• Cost of Goods and Return Percentages Survey. This report will also include how to find staff people; what resources are used; and how to keep and motivate good people.
• Growing Your Company. Information including diversification of product into print, electronic, and on-line markets.
If you happen to be in New York City on March 15, we hope you will join us at the Small Press Center, 20 W. 44th St., New York, New York, at 9:00 am for the press conference on returns and how they affect our industry.
Highlights from this press conference will include some of the following facts and recommendations:
• Returns total $7.1 billion within the overall publishing industry.
• Returns from smaller publishers constitute $1.95 billion.
• Smaller publishers have a return rate of 13%, approximately 58% less than that of hardcover trade publishers.
• Bold initiatives will be needed to decrease the returns policy within the publishing industry.
• New technology will reduce the need for policy changes.
• Initiatives should include:
1. Adoption of net pricing by the industry
2. Imposition of more limited returns policies
3. Increased production and sales of e-books
4. Increased use and sales of print-on-demand products
5. Greater industry use and acceptance of “markdowns in place” (discounts offered to bookstores in lieu of returns)
6. Standards for returns processing
7. Greater market research to determine editorial needs and positioning
8. Expansion of nontraditional sales through incentives
9. Reduction of title output; concentration on marketing those books published.
Since March is Independent Press Month, we feel that this is the best month in the year to launch our project. We are hopeful that you all will help us by promoting publishing within your community during this month (and throughout the year). Visit your local libraries; drop in at your local bookstores; call on the feature editors of the daily or weekly newspaper in your area. Make them aware of the size of our industry, and help them promote this to their patrons, buyers, and/or readers. By promoting our industry to these people, your title(s), author(s), company, and community will become the beneficiaries. You will also be assisting all of us in helping each other to achieve and succeed!